Navigating Uncharted Waters: The Inspiring Odyssey of a Trailblazing Female CIO
A conversation with Zayo Chief Information Officer Ginna Raahauge
From senior executive to the C-Suite, Zayo Chief Information Officer (CIO) Ginna Raahauge has worked for global companies big and small, driving transformation and business value through the creation of game-changing strategies and solutions across a variety of industries – something she never thought possible.
“Growing up I didn’t see people like me in leadership,” says Ginna, “Intuitively, I knew that I could lead. But as a woman, I didn’t know if I’d fit in. It was hard for me to imagine myself in a leadership position.” But that didn’t stop Ginna from trying. “Because of that, I was constantly trying to understand how I could get there,” she says.
Now, Ginna reflects on her career in tech and overcoming the ‘gender odds’ stacked against her.
What inspired you to take on a leadership role in this profession?
Long before I even knew what a career in tech was, my dream was to become a marine biologist. At 10 years old, I devised a plan to become a flight attendant so that I could fly (for free) to Hawaii and make my marine biology dreams come true. That was until a conversation with my father stopped me in my tracks and made me think about my place in the world. When my father heard of my career plans, he said to me, “A flight attendant? Why be the flight attendant when you can be the pilot!” At that point, I only knew pilots to be men. But if my father said I could be the pilot too, I believed him. Fast forward a few decades, and I’m one in a small percentage of women who serve as CIO at a technology company.
Have you ever had an experience that changed the trajectory of your career?
Early on in my career, I began in systems work. During my time there I realized I have a knack for sequencing things, so I wanted to learn more about the architecture behind it. After being told I had the capability, I found myself as “Head of IT” for a small company. But it wasn’t until I was given a chance by a former boss that I believed I was capable of holding a C-suite position.
My boss at the time was a phenomenal businesswoman, who broke the glass ceiling herself at AT&T and was the first female COO, featured in Time magazine. She saw the potential in me when it seemed no one else did. She had me running IT, risk management, and real estate at the same time. I questioned why and I learned it was because she knew I could – before I even knew I could. Today, I value paying this type of support forward to other women in the workplace.
What are some challenges you see women facing in the modern workplace?
One of the biggest challenges is networking in a largely remote environment. I think networking has actually gotten harder for women since the COVID-19 pandemic. There are stronger biases, making it much more difficult to navigate. For women, we have to navigate networking in a different way. Much too often we are the only women in the virtual meetings, which can be intimidating to break in or contribute. We aren’t in the office to learn by listening, so it’s made women’s workplace experiences more challenging in that regard.
Looking back on your career, what are some strengths that have played to your advantage?
It’s interesting because I’ve found that my brand has changed over time. I started as the expert, and now I see myself as more of the advisor. Because of that, I’d say one of my biggest strengths is that I’m a great listener and utility player. I’ve worn many hats throughout my career, so I know a lot about different topics and can help those seeking advice. I also like to think one of my strengths is staying steady and focused under extreme pressure and odds. For that reason, I’ve found people like to come to me for help navigating their own challenging situations or conversations.
What’s the best advice someone has given you?
“Don’t narrow your aperture.” When one of my companies was acquired the Chief Product Officer told me not to just look for CIO roles and widen the aperture. Through mentors, this advice, and ample chances, I’ve learned that I can take risks in different roles or even different industries like telecommunications. This advice has not only helped me build my personal brand, but it’s also helped me discover a lot more opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have.
So, what’s your advice for women in the (technology or otherwise) workplace?
Be a good listener. Don’t just listen to what’s being said, learn to listen to what’s not being said.
Nearly 30 years into her career, Ginna has certainly learned the art of listening to what is and isn’t being said and finding her voice at the executive table. She was recently recognized for the second year in a row as a 2023 Globee winner and nominated as a finalist in the 2023 CIO ORBIE Awards – both for her contributions as a transformative technology leader. Congratulations Ginna, we’re thrilled to have your leadership and perspective here at Zayo!